Friday, September 17, 2010

The Rapture and Revisionism

"So, what's real about the Rapture?" asks John R Coats in a Huffington Post blog. "Its roots are in the nineteenth-century rebellion against Modernity with its scientific rationalism. Beneath the glare of uber-left-brain logic, the stories and myths that had carried the larger truths about being human in an overwhelming, frightening, awe-filled universe were declared to be nonsense -- which is nonsense"

"Larger truths" ? Huh.

"and begged an equal and opposite reaction, which came in the declaration that the Bible was literally true -- every word."

To hear people like Coats tell it, things like Biblical literalism, and the conflict between religion and science, are mere recent misunderstandings.

I just don't buy it. In this particular case of the story of the Rapture as it is popularly known today, the details have been changed around a little, but it's not as if the various mentions in the Bible of the rise of the righteous into heaven are less far-fetched than the Left Behind thrillers.

It seems quite clear to me that Coats and his fellow "modern theologians" -- I put it in quotation marks because it seems as oxymoronic to me as "jumbo shrimp" or "living dead" -- are trying to convince themselves and their readers that early and medieval Christians were just like themselves, and that all these fanatics and fundamentalists running around causing so much trouble today are a recent aberration having little to do with the main history and substance of Christianity, which mostly consists of people who loved and appreciated things like science and would laugh and shake their heads at anyone who would take Bible passages as literal truth. If you ask them to back up this last part they point to Augustine of Hippo, who wrote a long, long thesis on the non-literal nature of the stories in Genesis. Typically, in the course of these arguments they do not mention that Augustine wrote no such thing regarding the other several dozen books of the Bible, and they do not mention things like the many people killed by the Inquisition, or the many Catholics killed for being Catholic by Protestants, or people killed for being witches by both Catholics and Protestants, or the huge massacres of Jews, Muslims and furrin-looking eastern Christians during the Crusades, or the often quite systematic destructions of civilizations in the Americas and Africa and Asia, destroyed because they were not sufficiently Christian, or any other of the long list of well-known horrors which fill the history of Christianity -- or if any such horrors are mentioned they are downplayed, and it is insisted that they, too, were aberrations.

Let's get back to those "larger truths" supposedly contained in those Bible stories, which were supposedly understood all along to be myths -- what are they? I hear so much about them yet I actually find them nowhere, like a disheartened medieval explorer searching all of Asia for Prester John.

Coats is attempting to make a huge mountain of reasonable, even wise, "modern" Christianity out of the molehill of his perception that a few Bible passages were modified -- slightly -- to come up with the story of the Rapture. The Left Behind authors aren't the only Christians telling tall tales these days.

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